A new study from the Copenhagen Studies on Asthma in Childhood Research Center (COPSAC) in Denmark has found that having cats around the house can help newborn babies avoid developing asthma. In a study of 377 babies who have mothers with asthma, scientists studied a gene variant (TT) that doubles the chance of developing asthma. They took environmental samples in the home and had mothers fill out surveys over time to try to isolate factors that affect the chances of the child developing asthma. They found that when the home has a cat when the baby is born, the TT variant is not activated.
The result surprised co-author Hans Bisgaard, professor of paediatrics and the head of COPSAC. Not because the results will lead to any new treatments—they will not—but because the study shows that the genes behind a disease can be switched on or off depending on the environment around us.
“For me, this is the core message because it’s a recognition in the direction of how disease occurs. It documents the interplay between genetics and the environment we live in, and in particular that this occurs very early in life, both during pregnancy and in the home,” says Bisgaard.
(Image credit: Flickr user drosen7900)